Stock Up, Stock Down for Big-Name NFL Rookies Post-OTAs
It's hard to gauge how well any rookie (or veteran) did during OTAs or minicamps, as teams almost always speak praise instead of criticism.
That's not to say some rookies didn't kill it in OTAs, just that we should take team reports with a grain of salt.
It also means that most of the "stock down" category involves injuries more than lack of ability.
So this is all to be taken with some more of that salt I just mentioned. These are players who, according to reports, appear either to be performing well or missing time.
It's all a roll of the dice until the pads come on and the players start hitting each other.
Stock Up: Teddy Bridgewater
While the Minnesota Vikings aren’t looking to rush their rookie quarterback, the early returns have been good.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Vikings GM Rick Spielman (per Rotoworld’s Evan Silva) have both talked about Bridgewater being the first one in the building and the last one to leave.
Master Tesfatsion of The Star-Tribune reported that Bridgewater’s first-team reps increased over the course of OTAs. Though he expects Cassel to hold most of the starting reps in minicamp, Tesfatsion wonders if the rookie’s snaps will increase and says that while the team won’t rush him, Bridgewater has looked good so far.
While the Vikings still have a reminder on the roster of what happens when you push a quarterback into the limelight too soon (*cough—Ponder—cough*), Bridgewater has already shown himself to be a hard worker and a solid quarterback.
It could be only a matter of time before he steps under center.
Stock Down: Allen Robinson
For Jaguars rookie receiver Allen Robinson, it’s not performance that knocks his stock down, but injury.
As The Florida Times-Union’s Ryan O’Halloran recently reported, Robinson will be out a few weeks with a hamstring injury.
Now, this isn’t unusual during OTAs and minicamps, especially for rookies who are still getting back into game shape after doing no real football work during the draft process.
However, hammy injuries can linger, so even if he returns in two weeks, we don’t know if Robinson will be 100 percent.
The Jaguars aren’t going to be worried. As much as they want both Robinson and receiver Marqise Lee (who the Times-Union’s Hays Carlyon reports was in a walking boot during OTAs) on the field as early as possible, they’re likely more concerned with having them ready for 2015—with QB Blake Bortles at the helm—than they are with this upcoming season.
That said, Robinson (and Lee) need reps to reach their potential.
Stock Up: Justin Gilbert
While many words have been typed about fellow rookie teammate Johnny Manziel, the truth is that Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert is swiftly heading toward a starting spot himself.
The No. 8 overall draft pick is reportedly going to get every chance to win it, according to Akron Beacon Journal's Nate Ulrich.
In fact, in a recent article from The Associated Press (via Boston Herald), it sounds almost as if the Browns already have Gilbert penciled in there as they discuss how he'll have to deal with a lot of balls thrown his way, since nobody throws at Joe Haden.
Of course, the eighth overall pick in a draft already has high expectations placed on him.
So far, it appears Gilbert has met them.
Stock Down: Tom Savage
Is it fair to “stock down” a guy who was a fourth-round pick? Probably not, as really his expectations should have been low to begin with. But quarterback Tom Savage was built up so much in the month leading up to the draft, he’s a name people are still asking about.
So his stock dropped when the Houston Chronicle’s Brian T. Smith reported that Coach Bill O'Brien said Savage was “a little bit behind.” And it definitely dropped when Drew Dougherty of the team’s official website announced that O'Brien has named Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Texans’ starter.
Learning another offense after changing colleges three times is too much to ask of any rookie, much less of one as unproven as Savage.
Will Savage develop into a starter? Maybe. But as many people thought when “Savage-mania” was on the rise, it’s going to take time if it happens at all.
Stock Up: Jordan Matthews
There was a lot to like when I saw Jordan Matthews at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, but some clear issues with his game appeared as well. While he made some great catches in traffic, he struggled to gain separation because of a lack of speed and crisp route running.
His size (6’3”) was a big attraction to teams, though, so the pick by the Philadelphia Eagles made a ton of sense.
It would appear that Matthews is already exceeding expectations, or else head coach Chip Kelly is doing an excellent job of playing to the receiver's strengths.
Philly.com writer Jimmy Kempski tweeted out during OTAs that “Matthews has looked like the best wide receiver on the team, and it hasn’t been close.”
Of course, a cynic would say that’s about the remaining receivers not being up to snuff, but so far it seems as though Matthews is going to shine in Philadelphia.
Stock Down: Jadeveon Clowney
Like with Allen Robinson, this is an injury issue. Jadeveon Clowney recently underwent sports hernia surgery, and according to the Houston Chronicle’s Brian T. Smith he will be out until training camp.
Worst-case scenario, Clowney should be healthy by preseason. Whenever he returns, the question becomes whether he will be able to catch up enough to have an early impact during the regular season.
So far, it seems as if Clowney is the real deal, but it’s tough to throw even a physical freak like him into the deep end. The closer it comes to the season, the more of a concern it might be.
Hopefully he is back for camp and gets enough snaps to contribute from Week 1 on.
Stock Up: Brandin Cooks
From the moment he was drafted at No. 20, wide receiver Brandin Cooks was destined to be a big part of the offense. Shortly after the NFL draft, Brett Martel of The Associated Press reported that Saints quarterback Drew Brees expects Cooks to help out right away.
"There's no doubt he's a guy who has the ability to be a big contributor for us on offense this year," Brees told Martel.
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Jeff Triplett said he thinks Cooks has a shot to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Also, according to Triplett, Cooks had been learning the Saints' playbook even while stuck in Oregon finishing his academic year.
All things being equal, it sounds as if the Saints are high on Cooks, which makes me feel the same way.
Stock Down: Jason Verrett
Well before the draft, cornerback Jason Verrett was already damaged goods, as DraftInsider.net’s Tony Pauline reported he was slated to have surgery on a torn labrum.
The assumption is that he’ll be ready by August, according to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego, but that’s a lot of time missed for a player who is desperately needed.
Hopefully Verrett can keep up with the playbook while he recuperates, as the team is very thin in the secondary.